academics love to talk about imposter syndrome. the idea is that we all pretend to be smarter, more well-read, more capable of original thought than everyone else in the room, and that when we’re alone we’re convinced that it’s all a performance, a guise, a ruse. one thing (besides race/class/gender/sexuality/ableism) that fuels these feelings is the reality that we can never possibly Master All The Knowledge, Read All The Books, Digest All The Knowledge.
as a scholar, we have to learn about and then stay on top of literature in our field. that means we need to eat/sleep/breathe books. except, we can’t actually eat/sleep/breathe books. and so, instead, we have to gut books. that is, we have to find a way into argument and evidence, fast and well, and do it over and over and over and over.
many, many, many, many treatises on how to gut a book are out there (yes, please read all four of those short blog posts in anticipation of our first meeting). but, can you really read a book in an hour? well, not the whole thing, of course. as academics, as scholars, we must find a way to engage with others ideas as fast and as furiously (read: enthusiastically, robustly, not angrily) as we can. on our first night, we’ll talk about these matters and you will spend the semester finding your own way into effective scholarly reading. ok, maybe you’ll spend your life actually honing it, but we’ll get you started on your path.
welcome to introduction to public history. we’re going to have a very good time.